Question? Quote?

Posts from 2015-08-01

Can I clean my vinyl windows with Boat Scrub and Boat Clean Plus?

Dave Wittmann asked:

Is it ok to use a 50/50 mix of Boat Scrub and Boat Cleaner Plus on the clear plastic part of my bimini cover? Or, is there another Aurora product you recommend?

Thanks very much!


DO NOT USE BOAT SCRUB ON YOUR CLEAR VINYL WINDOWS!  Use Clear View. It's a 2 part kit made especially for cleaning, restoring and protecting these windows. Boat Clean Plus is OK for washing.

Here's a link to our YouTube video showing you how to do it. Click Here to See how to clean, restore and protect your vinyl windows!

Thanks for your question:

Captain Aurora

Richard Kittar

Ten Checks to Make Before You Go Sailing!

Have you added the three most important bilge pumps to your boat safety check list? Does your sailing crew know the location of survival equipment, fuel shutoff valve and how to test a seacock?

Make these ten items your first stop when you step aboard any boat, power or sail. Develop your own checklist, but be sure to transfer these top ten to the head of the line. 

1.    Fire Extinguishers

Fire on a boat means big trouble. Check marine fire extinguisher locations and gauge charges. Recharge any extinguisher where the dial points into the red sector. Once a month, remove each dry chemical extinguisher from their brackets, invert, shake, and mount again. That way, any powder packed into the bottom will loosen up. Point out each portable fire extinguisher to your sailing crew or partner. In an emergency, you'll be glad you did!

2.    Flare Kits

All items in your emergency flare kit have two stamped dates: a manufactured date (earlier) and expiration date (later). If they're expired, keep the old ones that still appear to be in good shape. But you must replace them with new ones. Flares save lives, so keep them accessible and ready to use in an instant.

3.    Stuffing Box

More boats sink from leaking stuffing boxes than from any other cause. At the dock, a mooring or at anchor--not underway!  Get your flashlight and shine it onto the packing and lock nuts. Water lubricates the packing, so you should see a drop or two every minute.  Excessive leaks indicate worn or missing packing. Address this right away before you cast off.  If you have dripless glands aboard, check the hull around and below the gland to insure no leaks have developed. 

4.    Bilges and Engine Drip Pan

Check the forward and aft bilge for excess water. Look for leaks around keel bolts or transducer through-hulls. Look under the engine in the drip pan. If you see water, dip your fingers in and rub them together. Clear, oily water indicates a fresh water coolant problem. But it could also signal a stuffing box leak. When you fire up the engine, keep an eye on the stuffing box for too much leakage.

5.    Engine Fuel Shutoff

Make sure you know the location of the fuel supply shutoff valve. In an emergency, you need to turn this off to stop fuel flow to your small diesel engine. Trace the fuel line between tank and primary fuel filter. Test the valve to make sure you can turn it off and on with moderate pressure. 

6.    Marine Seacocks

The second most frequent cause of boat losses are seacocks with frozen handles or blown hoses. Every seacock aboard must have a handle that works. Test each handle in the shut off and open position. A gentle tap frees up most handles, frozen from corrosion. Look for tapered plugs, tied to the base of each seacock. In an emergency, they'll plug a leak.

7.    Head Valves

Another boat sinker. The head seacock often stays open underway. With a defective valve, this could cause the commode to fill and overflow. Make it a habit to shut off both valve and seacock after every use to prevent this problem. I believe it's vital to make a physical demonstration of this procedure to your crew. Not all crew will tell you they know how to use the head, so a short 30 second demonstration could save your boat. Take the time to teach to keep sailing and cruising safe and worry-free!

8.    Port, Hatch and Cowl Closure

Do the opening ports and hatches secure all the way?  In a squall, spray or rainstorm, you must button her up below.  Do you know where the cowl vent cover is?  A dry cabin pumps up crew morale, second only to a hot meal! 

9.    Marine Bilge Pumps

All mechanical type bilge pumps, please move to the back of the line!  By all means have them aboard, but install trusty "works-every-time" manual type bilge pumps too. Check for a large capacity manual bilge pump, like the whale pumps, in the cockpit. Find the handle and throw it in the sink to keep it handy.

Portable hand pumps are effective with a 3 foot hose (minimum) on the intake and exhaust side. Make sure you have a bailing bucket or two aboard, too. They've kept more than one boat afloat when other methods failed.

10.    Battery Covers and Tie Downs

Most sailboats have two batteries, one to start the engine and one for general (house) electronics. Each battery must have a cover and a strong tie down to prevent movement when you heel. Test the cables for tight contact to the battery terminals. Now you know they'll give you juice when you ask for it.

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Turn Your GPS into a "Danger Warning" System!

How can you use your GPS receiver to help you pass though dangerous shoals, make landfall on a fogbound coastline, or warn you if your anchor drags? Follow these five sailing tips for safer sailing or cruising worldwide...

1. Program short "check-points" between waypoints.

Shorter legs in coastal navigation increase the margin of safety. If you have two waypoints several miles apart, insert one or more waypoints in between. Now you have several position-points along the way to show your progress toward your destination. 

2. Program shoals as individual waypoints.

Make a waypoint for each hazard along the route. Your GPS receiver will allow you to give each a name, such as Reef 1, Reef 2 and so forth. View the range and bearing function as you pass close by. If the range decreases, turn the opposite way to get back onto your compass course.

3. Use proximity waypoints with each danger.

Most GPS units allow you to set up an alarm circle around a waypoint. Do this with each hazard. Decide on the closest range you would want to come to the danger. Allow a generous margin of safety that allows you enough time to take action if that alarm sounds!

4. Decide on the Cross-Track Error Allowance.

Your GPS cross track function shows how far to the left or right of track you have wandered. Set the internal alarm so that you don't need to watch the GPS all the time. Study your programmed route and find which hazard lies closest to your route. Set the cross-track alarm to sound within one half of that distance.

For example, you find a large cluster of rocks that lie within 0.4 nautical miles of your compass course. You should program the cross-track alarm to sound if you wander more than 0.2 miles from your courseline.

5. Compare the GPS picture to the visual picture.

Use your eyes first before you follow the recommended course change that your GPS gives you. Check the paper navigational chart. If the visual or paper picture disagrees with the electronic one--stop or heave-to until you work things out. Once you acquire full orientation, proceed on your way.

Captain John's Insider's Sailing Tip:

Make sure you have the latest edition paper nautical charts aboard. If your GPS goes on the fritz or you lose power, you need the paper backups to fall back on. No matter whether you have battery operated hand-held GPS units. Paper nautical charts are vital for safe and sound sailing seamanship!

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Save Sailing $$$s with this Reality Check!

Is sailing over the horizon more than just a dream, now with gas (and diesel) prices out of sight? Do you want to know the most essential things to look for before plunking down your hard earned cash on a cruising sailboat?

Only you are looking out for your own best interests. Not a boat broker, working off commission. So, get a piece of paper and a pencil and do a bit of analysis. Ask yourself these five questions before you consider buying a sailboat and save tons of money and time!

1. What Size of Cruising Sailboat Makes a Happy Cruising Sailor?

Not what you hear on TV, the movies or from a novel you've read! A small coastal cruising sailboat can be had for a fraction of the cost of a larger offshore vessel. Keep the size down to just as small as you can tolerate.  Spend less time at the repair dock. Save time and lots of money for cruising in a smaller, well built cruising sailboat!

2. How Often do You Go Outside of Protected Waters?

Do you want a boat for sailing to Bermuda, or would you rather crew on someone else's money machine? If far away destinations aren't in your plans, you could save years of wear and tear on your sailboat hull, deck equipment, sails and sailing gear by cruising closer to home.

3. Are You Prepared to Spend 50% More to Cross an Ocean?

Plan to spend about 33% over purchase price to equip a small sailboat with basic cruising needs. This includes sails, engine parts, modifications to hull, deck, and interior to make her coastal and offshore ready.

And cruising sailboats with weak build quality may cost 50% over purchase cost to get ready for deep offshore sailing. Buy a smaller, well built, well equipped coastal cruiser to save lots of money over the initial cost of purchase!

4. Where Do You Want to Cruise Over the next Two Years?

Deep keel vessels restrict your cruising grounds. West Coast sailboats have deeper keels because of the relative depth of water in places like Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. Shallow draft sailboats increase your ability to cruise off the beaten path. Choose a boat with shallower draft to open up gunkhole cruising grounds "away from crowds".

5. What are the 10 Most Important Amenities You Need?

Grab your wife or cruising partner for this one. Make a list of ten creature comforts that you must have, from most important to the least important. For instance, if pressurized hot water comes to mind first, make it #1.

Caution: the more "nice to haves" on your list, the greater will be the complexity and expense of cruising. No matter what the brochures tell you, salt, corrosion and humidity break down complicated gear like refrigeration, freezers and generators.

If you must have it, be sure to set aside a budget for repair, parts and time for service. Keep it simple to spend less time dockside, waiting for repairs, and more time enjoying the freedom of cruising.


Before you start your quest for the perfect cruising sailboat, take some time to do a reality check. You'll enjoy sailing more, save lots of money, and most of all, make your cruising dreams a reality!

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Five Ways to Avoid Flooding Aboard Your Boat

Marine Seacocks -"Gates-to-the-Sea".

Engines, sinks and marine toilets operate with sea water. Manufacturers drill holes into the hull and install sea cocks, which are valves that open and close. Make sure everyone aboard knows how to open and shut a sea cock. Then show them these five safety tips to prevent flooding.

1.  Sticky Marine Toilet Valves.

Look at the pump on the right side of any marine toilet. To operate the pump, you first open a marine seacock; then open a small valve on the toilet. The valve fails after a lot of use and results in a leaking toilet. If left open, the bowl fills, overflows and floods the boat.

Close the marine seacock after you use the head. Make this a habit to avoid this problem. Post a small sign in the head area to remind your sailing crew to do this.

2.  Off Center-line Galley Sink Installation.

Is the sink in your galley installed on one side or the other, or on the centerline? If installed off center, water could back up into the sink and overflow when the boat heels on that side. For example, a sink installed off center to port might overflow with the boat heels to the port side.

Close the seacock after each use. When you install the sink, loop the seacock intake hose to lift it above the water when heeled. Install the sink nearer the centerline.

3.  Worn Packing in Stuffing Box (or Packing Gland).

Your engine propeller shaft exits the boat through a hole in the hull. A stuffing box (also called packing gland), clamps over the shaft and compresses a plug made of flax or rubber. As the propeller shaft turns, you will see 1-2 drops of water every minute, necessary for shaft lubrication. More than this indicates worn or missing packing. If left unattended, the boat could flood.

Use a flashlight to check the stuffing box before, during and after your cruise.      Tighten the stuffing box with oversized wrenches. Hire a mechanic if uncertain how to do this. Ask him or her to show you the procedure.  Replace the packing if leak is still excessive. Note: some shafts use a dripless seal packing gland. You will not see any drip from these types of glands.

4.   Marine Seacock Failure.

Without exercise, seacock handles corrode and will not budge when pushed. If the hose or hose clamps fail, water floods into the boat.

Test each seacock before casting off. Move the handle back and forth. Tap frozen handles with a mallet or hammer (light pressure only).  Attach a soft wood plug to the seacock base in case of emergency. Disassemble all seacocks when you haul your boat. Lubricate with waterproof grease.

5.   Keel Bolt and Transducer Leaks.

Grounding, heavy seas or age result in stress on external bolted-on keels. Instrument transducers, such as those used for knotmeters or depth sounders, could loosen upon impact from grounding.

Inspect the bilges before, during and after sailing. If testing a boat for purchase, check the bilge for leaks on each tack.  Haul the boat right away and have the boat surveyed.

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The big seven

Just check your small sailboat diesel this morning before startup?Good deal. Now you've been anchored for a few hours and you're readyto cast off again. Time to repeat the big seven for sailing safety.Sure this might seem like overkill. And it might be in a static land world.But not so in a dynamic water world. 

Sailboat engines and attachments vibrate, expand, and flex whenheeling, pitching rolling, yawing or when your boat gets bouncedaround by boat wakes or wind and sea. Take the time to go through asimple pre-start check each and every time. This could save you big$$$s down the road.

1. Oil

Use this double-dip technique. Pull the dip-stick out and wipe it off.Push it back in all the way so that it gets to the bottom of the oilsump. Pull it out and look at the oil color. It should be black (brownor streaked indicates water in the oil). Smear the oil on your fingersand shine a light onto it. Granules signal internal metal fatigue.Address any problems right away.

2. Transmission fluid.

Yes, it's a pain to check transmission fluid, but repairs are costlyif you don't. Make sure to use the double-dip method described abovefor accuracy. Most transmission dip-sticks screw into the fill cap, soscrew it all the way down when you sound the tank. Remove it, checkthe level, and smell the fluid. If it has a burned odor, yourtransmission needs to be looked at right away.

3. Coolant cap and fluid level.

Remove the header tank cap, turn it over, and check the gasket. Worncap gaskets are unable to provide a tight seal. Replace the entirecap. Otherwise, you will lose coolant. This could cause the engine tooverheat and result in internal damage. Stick your finger into theheader tank (cold tank only!). Keep the fluid level close to the topof the fill.

4. Belts and hoses

Depress the drive belts. Adjust or replace any belt that has more than1/2 inch of play. Feel hoses (cold only) for softness. Look for cracksor abrasion. Replace defective belts and hoses right away. Carryspares aboard as part of your spare parts kit.

5. Stuffing box (packing gland)

Look for excessive leaks at the shaft packing. More than one boat hassunk on a mooring or at anchor from a leaking stuffing box. Three orfour drips a minute provide lubrication, but more than that tells youthe nuts are too loose or the packing material has worn. You will needtwo over-sized wrenches to tighten the nuts. If it still leaks,replace the packing material.

6. Raw water seacock and exhaust

Make sure the raw-water seacock handle lines up with the raw waterhose. This opens the valve to allow cooling water to the engine. Afteryou start the engine, check the stern exhaust tube for a steady flowof water. Blockage often points to a clogged raw water filter or anobject trapped against the outside raw water intake.

7. Test battery cables

Cables loosen when the boat pitches, rolls, or vibrates at sea. Checkthe connection at each battery terminal and on the side of theengine.


Add years of life and save $$$ in repair costs with these simple

steps. Your sailboat diesel will reward you with smooth, reliable,


starts-every-time service for many sailing seasons to come.

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The "what if" scenarios...

Are your small sailboat and sailing crew prepared for the challengesthat might pop up while on a coastal cruise?  Have you thought throughthe “what if” scenarios and come up with a plan of action? Followthese ten tips for a safe and worry free coastal cruise.

1. Post “how to” instructions for marine sanitation devices(toilets); boat galley stove operation and VHF radio operation. Adddiagrams for clarity. 

2. Show your crew how to operate each device. Sure, you haveinstructions in place, but nothing beats a live demo. Make sure youemphasize that all important final safety step to preventemergencies.

For example, when done using a marine toilet, close the intake seacockto prevent flooding. When finished with a stove, shut off switches,burners, and valves as applicable. Ventilate the space to get rid of vapors. 

3. Go over the intended sailing routes with the crew. Mark your chartswith permanent, labeled magnetic compass courses. This keeps yoursailing crew “in the loop” should you become incapacitated.

4. Circle harbors or refuge along the route. If the sailing weatherturns foul, you will want a place to pull in. If your route includesstretches of barren coastline, mark emergency anchorages along theway.

5. Set up a watch schedule for overnight cruises. In fair to moderateweather, make these no longer than four hours. Rotate the watch oncean hour in extreme sea weather conditions.

6. Lash draws, lockers and hatches before you cast off your dockinglines. Use bungee cord or twine. A simple eye in one end allows youto open the fitting without much fuss. Stuff foam or clean rags in“rattle zones”, such as flatware drawers and canned food lockers.

7. Instruct your crew that they should come aboard with a full set offoul weather gear. This includes a jacket, bib overalls and sailingboots. Staying dry boosts the morale of any boat crew.

8. Rig jacklines (long lines or webbing that run from the bow to thestern). Anyone on deck at night or in heavy weather must wear apersonal flotation device and safety harness. Clip on to the windwardside jackline when outside in these conditions. 

9. Spend an hour of your time on emergency drills. Make this fun,relaxed and informative. Include man overboard recovery, how to heaveto and how to start the engine. Let each crewmember take a trick atthe wheel or sailboat tiller.

10. Reef before nightfall. It’s a lot safer and easier to put a reefinto the mainsail before sunset. In very light wind, set a largerheadsail.

Your next small sailboat coastal cruise can be a lot of fun and lessstressful if you prepare with these ten tips. Now relax and enjoy yourcruise, knowing that your crew and sailboat are taken care of!

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Man Over Board (MOB)

Falling overboard remains the #1 nightmare of sailors worldwide.Serious injury from the fall could render a person unconscious.Darkness and heavy seas hamper recovery efforts. If coastal sailing,you must set up the deck to aid the crew in moving about the boat.

You've probably read about wearing a pfd and harness until you're bluein the face. Fine. But what you will rarely read about are thosesubtle changes that occur the instant you move from terra firma to"tipsy" firma. You can bet newbies have no idea how to move on aboat.

Never assume they do. Veterans tend to forget too. It's easy to thinkyou are super-sailor with sea miles by the thousands under your belt.The sea will not care. One slip, fall, tumble or trip over a line,winch or fitting is all it takes. Pass these along to all hands beforeyou cast off.

1. Grasp a Handhold.

Hold onto something whenever aboard, whether at the dock, at anchor orunderway. In a flat calm lake or a raging storm. Grab lifelines,rails, sailboat mast or boom. Most production boats lack enoughhandrails below deck. Install enough handrails to provide continuoussupport from the cabin to the forward v-berth. Go topside and thinkabout ways to install more "grab 'n hold" gear for moving fore andaft.


Captain John's Sailing Tip

Handicap grab bars provide a good alternative to teak handrails at afraction of the cost. Find these at large hardware stores. Cover themwith rope fancy work for an attractive, salty look.


2. Look BEFORE You Move.

Look down, then forward before you move. Step over headsail sheets,winches, rope clutch gear, deck cleats and slippery boat sails. Keeplines coiled out of the way to prevent injury.

3. Squat BELOW the Upper Lifeline

Keep your knees below the level of the uppermost lifeline. If thrownagainst the lifeline, this offers more area to brace your body. Squatlike a linebacker to move fore or aft. This lowers your center ofgravity toward the deck. In heavy weather sailing, lower your centerof gravity even more. Crawl on your belly if necessary.

All sailors enter a unique environment whenever they step aboard asmall sailboat. Follow these sailing tips to make each trip a safe onefor you and your sailing crew.

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Knots and more...

1. Make Friction Your Friend

Tie a bowline knot to a rail, lifeline, or stanchion and you can counton lateral (side) slip. This can cause excessive chafe. Many supersecure knots--like the rolling hitch, anchor bend, or round turn andtwo half-hitches--lead off with a round turn. 

This extra pass grips the rail or piling like a barnacle on a boatbottom. And it keeps the knot in place to reduce line-killing chafe.If you need a knot like a bowline to stay put without slipping,start off with a round turn. Then tie the rest of the knot.

2. Develop "Spill" Awareness

Clove hitches and bowlines can untie from being worked back and forth.This constant strain and slack can cause them to "spill", or untiethemselves. And that could lead to a dangerous situation.

Did you know that you can spill a square (reef) knot after just 19tugs? In comparison, the double becket (sheet) bend needs about 36tugs to spill. By the way, the square knots fake cousin--the "Granny"knot--spills after about 3 tugs!

If possible, choose a knot, bend, or hitch that doesn't spill asfast. Knots with more turns or those that are doubled tend to offergreater security. A clove hitch has one turn over the top. The moresecure rolling hitch has two turns over the top. A single becket bendspills faster (22 tugs) than the double becket bend (36 tugs).

3. "Take Ten" to Boost Sailing Knot Security

You won't always want to take the time to retie a knot. But you canmake it more secure and it takes just ten seconds or less. If you needto make any knot super secure for the specific application, add halfhitches to the finished knot. 

Start the knot with lots of extra bitter end (12" to 18"). After youfinish the knot, remove all slack. Pull on the bitter ends andstanding part. Add one, two or more additional half-hitches with theexcess bitter end. Again, work the slack out of the half-hitches andslide them up beneath the knot. 

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"Go or No Go?"

Not long ago, one racing sailboat lost more than half of the crew in a raceoff the west coast of the US. All were experienced racing sailors and the latestrace-required safety equipment was aboard.

They sailed into an area that showed breakers on the chart.  The breaker line wasclearly marked. The boat capsized. More than half the crew never returned home. 

If you sail into a breaker line and get pounded by a breaker you will likelyend up with a broken ______ (you fill in the blank--hull, keel, rudder, mast,boom). Your sailing crew could sustain serious injury or lose their lives. 

This particular event was not a rescue attempt by the US Coast Guard or Royal Lifeboat Institution. Nor was it a mission to land troops on a Normandy beachduring WWII. In those circumstances, skippers and crews understand that theywill put their lives on the line for others. 

But in this incident, loss of life occurred  during a recreational sailboat race.Risk will always be part of sailing. But where do you draw the line? I believeeach skipper must make that call and accept unconditional responsibility for hisor her actions.

I like to think this as a "Go or No Go?" decision. Pretty simple. But it applies tojust about everything you do as a skipper. 

Do you cast off for a cruise or wait for a wider weather window? Run an inlet orsail a few a few more hours to an alternate entrance? Race around a point of landwhere breakers abound or bear away to a safer course? No matter what others do.No matter the peer pressure of the moment. You make the final call. Alone.

The order of skipper responsibility has not changed since man took to the sea.

This order remains the pillar of responsibility of every skipper, no matter theirexperience level. This applies across the board, whether you skipper a dinghy,powerboat, cruising sailboat, racing sailboat, freighter or super tanker.

1. Passengers2. Crew3. Boat

Passengers (those that pay you to sail aboard your boat) come first. If you haveno paying passengers, your Crew comes first. Always. Those that step aboard yourboat have placed their trust in you. Unconditionally. How will each decision thatyou make affect them? "Go or No Go?"

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